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The ITER fusion reactor needs super-strong steel to withstand its fiery hot temperatures. Fortunately, an American national laboratory has developed just such a steel, and has made it affordable as well.  (Source: ITER)
New steel from Oak Ridge National Laboratory is cheaper and stronger than past steel, likely to be used in ITER fusion reactor

DailyTech last month reported that Great Britain was working on  super steels.  These ultra-strong steels would be made possible by preventing irregularities in steel, which weaken its internal magnetics, making it more susceptible to heat.

Now it appears that the Americans have beaten the Brits to the punch, unveiling their own completed super steel.  The new steel was developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. ITER Project Office, which is housed at ORNL.  The ORNL was recently in the news for inventing a new titanium manufacturing technique.

With its new cast stainless steel, it continued its successes. The new steel is approximately 70 percent stronger than comparable steels and could be a boon to the fusion industry.  Its material parameters are being evaluated carefully, as it is being considered for use in shielding ITER's fusion device.

ITER is a multibillion-dollar international research and development project which is accessing the viability of creating a commercial fusion reactor.

The new steel will need to be ultra strong at high temperatures.  One key goal of the project is to develop self-burning plasmas.  Hundreds of tons of shielding will be needed to block heat and radiation from this plasma.  The shielding, primarily composed of super steel, will be close to the plasma, which will be heated to 100 million degrees.  While the shielding itself won't be this hot, it will get more than a little toasty.

ITER is being built at Cadarache, France.  The United States, China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation are all contributing components.  The reactor will be of a tokamak design -- a torus of hot plasma contained by a magnetic field.  The device is expected to produce around 500 MW of fusion power when functioning.

Jeremy Busby of the ORNL Materials Science and Technology Division says designing steel to withstand the extremes of the reactor is a difficult challenge.  He states, "The United States must produce nearly 100 of these modules that are 3-4 tons each and include geometric shapes and openings."

The holes drilled in the steel will weaken it and will result in the loss of 30 percent of the material.  While casting the shape would be more economical and efficient, cast steel traditionally is much weaker.  However, thanks to recent breakthroughs the researchers are beginning to get the problem under control.

Explains Mr. Busby, "We're working to improve the materials' properties to reduce the amount of machining and welding and allow for better performance.  The use of casting can have potential value engineering benefits resulting in cost savings on the order of 20 to 40 percent as compared to machining, so this could be a fairly significant economic issue, both for ITER and in other future uses."

Mike Hechler, USIPO manager of Blanket Shielding and Port Limiter systems, initially approached Mr. Bosby and his team with the request that they design super-steel shielding for the reactor.  Mr. Bosby adds, "He talked with us because of ORNL's materials science expertise.  He was familiar with our industry work and hopeful that we could help provide a solution."

Eighteen months later, the work is almost finished.

In order to strengthen the steel, scientists focused on fracture properties, tensile strength, microstructure properties, welds, impact properties, corrosion performance and radiation resistance.  Through carefully controlled attempts using different casting techniques and varying the composition slightly, his team was able to almost double many key strength properties.

Now Mr. Bosby and his team have to await the final word from ITER on whether the material has passed its standards.  He states, "We expect to hear fairly soon about how our cast stainless steel may be used in this groundbreaking project."

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RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By Hulk on 10/28/2008 11:19:19 AM , Rating: 5
Are you serious? You are offended by this headline?

Amazing where we are today. I guess there is no freedom of the press anymore.

RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By martinrichards23 on 10/28/2008 11:31:42 AM , Rating: 5
Where did I say I was offended? I am not, I just find it odd.

You are reading between the lines.

Anyone who is familiar with how scientific research happens would think this whole "country vs country" thing is absurd, it is only losers sitting behind their keyboards who get excited becuase *their* country makes an advancement in science.

Same people who constantly ridicule the French at any given opportunity.

RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By MrBlastman on 10/28/2008 12:24:23 PM , Rating: 5
I like my French... Fried...


Into a vat of boiling oil I say!

RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By Hulk on 10/28/08, Rating: 0
RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By martinrichards23 on 10/28/2008 1:38:43 PM , Rating: 2
You have completely and comprehensively missed every point I have made. I'm certainly not an "every ones a winner" type. I am also not offended by anything written here.

RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By Spuke on 10/28/2008 7:20:32 PM , Rating: 2
I'm certainly not an "every ones a winner" type. I am also not offended by anything written here.
Then what's the purpose of your original comment if it did not perturb you in any way? LOL!

RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By martinrichards23 on 10/29/2008 5:24:04 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously? You still don't get it?

RE: "U.S. Beats Britain"
By Ringold on 10/28/2008 3:57:09 PM , Rating: 5
it is only losers sitting behind their keyboards who get excited becuase *their* country makes an advancement in science.

You just described pretty much every sports fan on Earth. They're just "losers sitting behind their [televisions] who get excited because *their* [country/school/state/city] makes a [touchdown/field goal/home run/etc] in [football/baseball/etc]" when they contributed nothing to the process themselves, and when teams are composed of people from all across the country and sometimes the world. If they made a contribution at all, it'd be because they bought tickets, paid tuition to a college team, or in the case of ORNL, paid taxes.

Apparently however many billion people tune in to watch sports every week for some game or another, well, they're all losers. Can you paint the loser net much wider? :P

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